The book Steinhof by author Carola Hansson is published in Ukraine. The novel is previously released in the UK and in Holland.
If Carola Hansson, in her previous novels, portrayed experiences of language and foreignism, Steinhof has gone one step further. Here it is no longer just about “inner exile” but about what it is like to be forced to flee from ones own country and live in exile, deprived of their language and, in part, their memories. The idea of the novel she received when she was told of a woman who had fled from Hungary to Sweden in 1956. By the time of the Soviet invasion she had been at the age of twelve years and went to a boarding school for girls outside the city of Sopron. One day, the teachers in school, appalled by the rumors of massacres, explained to the children that they should have a Sunday outing in the mountains, but instead brought them across the border to Austria. The image of the little girls, like in the sunshine (Carola Hansson saw it differently) tears up the mountain, then, maybe at dusk, disappearing on the other side of the border and into the unknown darkness made an indelible impression on her – and she decided to follow them. But she followed, not one of the girls, but one of the, for her completely unknown, teachers. She gave her the name Magda.
While the children after a while in refugee camps are divided in different directions, Magda will remain in Vienna. She meets Thomas and marries into his bourgeois family, where the forgetfulness and mythology of the past – both her own and the country – are more or less put into systems. Nobody asks for Magda’s past life, and she will live in an increasingly despicable sense of supremacy and strangeness; An anxiety that ultimately becomes her superpower: the end of the novel takes place at the Steinhof mental hospital.
But in fact, the novel does not end up being as dark as it sounds. No, Steinhof is not only a story of loss but also of love – and even though Thomas once urged Magda to forget, he, when she disappeared into the silence, he tried to reach her through her own memories, her own words. For Carola Hansson, he grows into an Orfeus figure, a living person who tries to sing his lover back from the underworld.
The novel Steinhof was awarded Svenska Dagbladet’s Literature Prize.